Thursday, September 24, 2009

Orientation to the Evangelical Forum

The last few years I have offered an "Orientation to the Evangelical Forum" in our first session. Here is the text from this year's orientation:
On behalf of the Steering Committee of the Evangelical Forum and as Pastor of our host church let me warmly welcome you to this year’s annual gathering.

It appears more than evident that God is doing a work of reformation and renewal in our days. In this year of the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, God has been pleased to allow the great Genevan Reformer’s doctrine to be rediscovered and freshly applied for the living of our days.

Our little gathering is just one small indication of something that is happening all over the world, as God is continuing to call out men and women to worship him in Spirit and in Truth in churches that are more nearly conformed and faithful to his Word.

The Evangelical Forum is "a fellowship of concerned evangelical Pastors and laymen who desire to see renewal and reformation within Baptist churches in Virginia. We affirm the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) and the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)."

This is the 8th year consecutive year that we have met for an annual conference to hear preaching and teaching. We have been particularly blessed over the past eight years to have excellent ministers come and speak to us, despite the fact that this is a rather small and obscure gathering. This year is no exception. We especially welcome Pastor Conrad Mbewe and Dr. Derek Thomas to our 2009 meeting.

The theme of this year’s gathering is "The Decrees of God," as we continue a process begun three years ago of having our Forum theme focus sequentially on the articles of the 2LBC (1689).

When we gave this gathering the name "Evangelical" Forum we had the sense of it being a meeting centered around the Evangel, the euangellion or the Gospel. The word "Evangelical" has admittedly been stretched to such limits today that it has almost become meaningless. Church historian George Marsden has suggested the dumbed-down definition of "evangelical" as, "anyone who likes Billy Graham." In his classic book The Christian Ministry, however, Charles Bridges quotes an old divine who said, "Our doctrine must be as a garment, fitted for the body it is made for; a garment that is fit for every body, is fit for nobody" (p. 270, n. 2).

Clearly, we have sought a more narrow definition of the word "Evangelical" than the one Marsden suggested. For us the title "Evangelical Forum" has come to mean a place and time when we can consider together the claims of the Biblical Gospel on our lives. We are particularly interested in how this Gospel was reclaimed by our Reformation fathers and how it remains relevant today not only for understanding the doctrine of salvation but also for vital things like personal piety, church government, and worship.

Again, we are glad that you are here, and we look forward to a season of mutual edification and encouragement this weekend centered around the Evangel.

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